ERRC: France Continues to Evict Roma on a Massive Scale
France continues with its unlawful and costly policy of evicting Roma who have made use of their right to freedom of movement within the European Union from countries such as Romania. Between 1 April and 30 June 2014, 3,807 Roma were evicted from 40 different places. Fires in two settlements left 51 Roma homeless, while the French authorities implemented forced evictions in 38 settlements.
According to the findings of a survey conducted by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Ligue des droit de l’homme (LDH), there were 28 evictions due to court orders (eviction procedure started by landowners), eight evictions following an ordinance by the local mayor or prefect citing security reasons, and two settlements where people chose to leave, under the threat of imminent forced eviction.
During the first three months of 2014, the French authorities forcibly evicted a total of 3,428 Roma. The new figures gathered by the ERRC and the LDH clearly reflect that, despite commitments and criticism, the French authorities pursue their eviction policy rather than seeking ways to ensure full integration of Roma into French society.
Eviction policies violate the fundamental rights of Roma, secured by domestic legislation, including the French Constitution, as well as international law by which France is bound. Evictions should be accompanied by rehousing and social support for the affected people, as set out in French government guidance published on 26 August 2012. In practice, temporary accommodation is offered to some families chosen using unclear criteria, but not to others. It is impossible under these conditions to implement any integration policy. The authorities do not fully adhere to their own guidance, in particular when it comes to measures aimed at integration. The guidance is nothing more than window dressing and evictions are in fact the automatic response of the authorities.
These evictions are costly and do not bring any sustainable or fair solution to the problem of Roma living in slums. Furthermore, the eviction policy hinders all the integration efforts promised by the French Government in its National Strategy and increases the vulnerability of Roma, pushing them further to the margins. Dehumanising evictions, coupled with racist comments by officials (including high-level politicians) claiming, for example, that Roma are unable to integrate, pave the way for violent actions such as the brutal attack on 13 June 2014 when a 16 year-old Romani boy was nearly beaten to death by a mob.
The ERRC has challenged France’s eviction policy before the European Court of Human Rights. On 22 May 2014, the ECtHR decided to hear the case of Hirtu and others v France, about the forced eviction of Romani families in early 2013. The Court will scrutinise France’s practice of forced evictions and the way the French courts have responded to this practice. The Court has given the case priority treatment, a measure reserved for the most serious category of cases. The Ligue des Droits de l’Homme is seeking permission to intervene in the case as a third party.
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